Yet again, we have a race where neither candidate is great on biking and safe streets issues. But Andrew Lewis is the better of the two, as you can see for yourself in this KCTS clip from a recent Seattle City Club debate:
I gotta be honest, I considered changing my planned Andrew Lewis endorsement to “no endorsement” after reading his comments to Erica C. Barnett in a recent interview, which expand on his stance in the debate video. In the interview, he suggests that the problem with the Missing Link is that there wasn’t enough process. No really. Then he says that he thinks bike lanes in general should go through more process and that it’s “fine” if they are meandering and indirect.
“I’m thinking of specific conversations that have been in the news in other districts, like the Missing Link of the Burke-Gilman Trail and 35th Ave. NE up in Wedgwood. I think that part of the concern in those discussions was that there is broad-based support for connections, but the route that was picked by the city was controversial. I would want to step back and have a little bit more of a process with all the stakeholders and then, at the end, have a recommendation. And it might sometimes lead to a route where I, as a biker, might not find it to be the most convenient route. But if it’s safe, I’ll use it and I’ll be thrilled, and if I have to dogleg over a block, go up, and then rejoin whatever the route is, I’m fine with that.”
First of all, we’ve been arguing about the Missing Link for over two decades. If that’s not enough process for you, then I just don’t know what to tell you.
Second, bike lanes were picked for 35th Ave NE after a significant amount of public outreach both for the paving project and the Bicycle Master Plan. The bike lanes were the solution that met our city’s goals. The route may have been “controversial” to some, but I think we’ve seen that abandoning the city’s goals by cutting those lanes was even more controversial.
The bike lanes were chosen both because it was the only direct and continuous bike route option and because the city needed to make the street safer for all users. Protected bike lanes would have accomplished both of those goals. The 39th Ave NE neighborhood greenway, which bike lane opponents kept pointing to as an alternative, does not connect to the north and is eight very steep blocks out of the way (four there, four back). That is not an alternative, and it’s not “fine.”
There was no amount of process that would have gotten the opponent group on board with the bike lanes. The result of not putting bike lanes on 35th is that people have continued biking there because it is the only direct and continuous option, but now there are no safety enhancements to help them do so. And speeding and dangerous passing is rampant because the road did not receive the safety benefits of having protected bike lanes, which reduce serious collisions for all road users. This is what happens when leaders don’t stand up for our plans and goals.
But to zoom out from this one project, Seattle needs to make a lot of changes to its streets if we are going to connect our city’s bike network and achieve Vision Zero. That requires our leaders to be committed to our safe streets, transit and climate change plans even when the work is difficult. Especially when the work is difficult.
But his opponent Jim Pugel is worse. For example, he spent his entire answer about bike lanes in that City Club debate complaining about how the arena construction project moved the 1st Ave N bike lane to the other side of the street so that they could stage their construction site on top of the old bike lane. The problem? People want to park cars there. So in Pugel’s mind, people biking should be put at increased risk of injury or death during arena construction so that people driving can park more conveniently. Congratulations, Jim Pugel, you’re worse than Andrew Lewis.
I hope Lewis can learn and change his position on essentially sabotaging the bike plan. He bikes, and he talks about needing to build the bike network. I hope he gets ready to bring the level of political leadership that’s going to take.